While driving home from Oakland to Sonoma in thick Friday afternoon traffic I watched myself become more and more proprietary about “my lane”. The tension travelled from my mind to my hands and throughout the rest of my body. Craning my head to see who had the nerve to cut in front of me, I watched my mind become sharp and rigid. Where was my 40 years of meditation? Where was the bliss I felt only yesterday while sitting in my chair enjoying the present moment? I tried using my breath to return to an unconditional present moment, but to no avail. The triggered body was already activated. It would take something stronger to help me see things from a larger perspective.
There is a natural human tendency to get caught up in the details of our lives. We are all prone to loose our perspective when we get triggered, regardless of how much mindfulness practice we have under out belt. In thick traffic, while arguing with a loved one, in the middle of a challenging workday, we don’t always have the luxury to remove ourselves from the situation and take the time to center ourselves in meditation. Yet these are precisely the times we most need to remember a broader perspective.
Enter the gatha. Gathas, as described in last month’s newsletter, offer a simple and beautiful way to bring awareness into the muddled stuck areas of our daily life. Remembering the bigger picture while in the midst of a brain fog, fear and irritation provides us with a bit of breathing space. In that space we can let go, even for just a moment, of the tension we are carrying. Outwardly things remain the same. Inwardly, everything has changed.
When do you lose perspective? When do you forget that you are not alone in this vast world? that you are a jewel connected to the infinitude of beautiful, bright jewels in Indra’s web? When does your mind race out of control? When do you forget the peace you discovered in meditation and become fearful and grasping? Is it in the middle of thick traffic? While paying bills or filling out tax forms? While saying no to your teenager? We all have different triggers. It’s helpful to know what yanks our chain. Try this exercise:
Take a moment and think about your week. When did you feel most lost? Write down some of the times you lost perspective, felt out of control or were just mildly distracted. Remember these times without any self-judgment. Odds are there are many other people who are triggered by the same things that trigger you. By looking at your daily challenges you become more aware and more apt to recognize them the next time they arise. But, most importantly, what you noticed can be used to develop a strategy for dealing with challenging times. It can used to erect a lifeline for when the challenges inevitably reoccur. By taking what you’ve noticed and creating a simple line, such as, “While driving in traffic” or “When I feel anxious about my parents visiting”, you have the first line of your personal gatha.
We have begun of our homemade gatha journey. The ideal way to explore this is with others in a group, but for now we can take this journey together from our respective arm chairs. Next month we’ll take the next step in creating our personal gathas. I hope you continue to join us on this journey! We would love to hear about what you are discovering.